This is just craziness: Alice Munro in a futuristic metallic blouse singing the praises of the LongPen, that Margaret Atwood-designed electronic doodad that allows writers to sign books over the internets. Clearly, she thinks the whole idea is a gas, if a tiny bit absurd. All the benefits of a book tour, but no carbon emissions! Oh, yeah, and the writer can stay home in her slippers.
For a long time I thought the LongPen was actually an ironic invention designed to undercut the whole idea of book-signings. Now I think sly old Atwood is for real. And you know, she's won me over. Reclusive writers can remain reclusive, publishers can put more money into other marketing, readers get their signed copies and a video-enabled face-to-face chatlet, and the environment wins, too. As Munro says, "I can't think of any drawbacks."
Will fans feel cheated? Would they rather press some flesh than see their favorite writer on teevee? Eh. With some notable exceptions, writers don't fare so well in person, anyway, and the LongPen seems like a rather satisfactory way for a writer to take back some personal space while still giving a little of themselves. Anyway, I'm happy with the fan-letter model of writer-reader interaction. I have a letter from Alice Munro hanging over my desk, signed with a short pen.
(Thanks to Doug Mitchell for the link!)